Monday, July 30, 2012

Bertie Blackman - Saviour Of Australian Pop

Bertie Blackman has returned to slap some life back into the Australian indie-pop scene with the lead single from her fourth studio album Pope Innocent X. I've featured the quirky diva several times on the blog over the past few years and fell head-over-heels in love with Secrets and Lies (ranking it as one of my top 40 albums of 2009). Happily, "Mercy Killer" picks up where that opus left off - at least as far as quality is concerned. Bertie's new jam is a brilliantly executed anti-pop song that camouflages the (typically) dark thematic terrain with cute, toe-tapping beats and a sing-a-long chorus. I love everything about this from the brutally honest lyrics to the spooky soundscape.

In other words, it's pretty much brilliant and puts all our local faves to shame. The morose wordsmith readily admits that "Mercy Killer" is a confession about fucking someone over and finding perverse pleasure in the process. She might be a bitch but at least she owns it! The video, unfortunately, is a bit of snooze until the lead actress starts menstruating in the bathroom. From that moment on, it's a rollicking ride full of bad fashion and dead men with combovers. While Washington lost the fucking plot and the likes of Missy Higgins could never find it in the first place, Bertie always delivers. This is one of my favourite Australian pop songs of 2012.

Ricki-Lee Robs Britney, Sinks To New Low

Ricki-Lee's descent into irrelevance continues apace with the latest single from Fear & Freedom. The weight-loss spokeswoman has always been a basic bitch but - until recently - her music has been flawless. I still love the sticky-fingered diva's first two albums and ranked "Raining Diamonds" as one of the best singles of 2011. Even "Do It Like That" (AKA the world's cheapest Beyoncé rip off) was palatable in its remixed form but there's no excusing "Crazy" (AKA the world's cheapest Britney rip offf). Seriously, this is just "Till The World Ends" - only with cheaper production, a far less catchy vocal hook and worse choreography.

I don't get it. Ricki-Lee has many failings but she can sing like a demon and has attitude to burn. Why is she copying international heavyweights and hiding her killer pipes under layers of autotune? I'd take the catchy pop/rock songs from her (scrapped) third album over this shit any day. The video doesn't help. Ricki-Lee looked better when she had the body of a front-row forward. Her face is too gaunt and the blond hair makes her look ancient. I'm not impressed with the mental hospital set-up either. It's been done a million times before  - most recently on Lady Gaga's "Marry The Night" - and straight-jacket dance routines have been regularly used by divas since Kylie's Intimate & Live performace of "Limbo".

Everything about "Crazy" is tired, desperate and deritive. It's time for Ricki-Lee to take several aisles of seats.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Lana Del Rey Conquers Sydney - Live Review

Lana Del Rey brought that wintertime sadness to Sydney last night with the first of two sold-out shows at the Enmore Theatre. The perennially-doomed queen of ominous indie-pop has divided the music world more than any other artist in 2012. Some dismiss her as a gimmick, while others - like myself - swoon at the very mention of her name. For me, Born To Die is the ultimate concept album. Liz Grant (Lana's real name) has breathed her very own film-noir heroine to life and fearlessly marches her through the seedy underbelly of the American dream - song by song, video by video. It's a flawlessly constructed soundscape that evokes images of wine-stained party frocks and cheap velour curtains. Translating that multi-layered sound into a live performance was always going to be difficlut but the 26-year-old was a revelation last night.

From the moment Lana strolled across the stage and casually began singing "Blue Jeans", all memories of that infamous Saturday Night Live appearance dissipated. She looked every inch the vintage glamour girl in her pink babydoll dress and trademark floral headpiece. The usually depressed diva positively beamed as she descended into the audience and mingled with screaming fans. I couldn't take my eyes off her. It was her real-life prom queen moment and she absorbed the adulation with grace and good humour. After climbing back on stage, Lana introduced herself and then launched into new song "Body Electric". It's quintessentially Del Rey with lyrics full of yearning and a chorus that sneaks up on you out of nowhere. Singles "Born To Die" and "Summertime Sadness" followed and they couldn't have sounded more perfect.

Hearing "Without You" was the highlight of the show for me. I still can't believe the glorious torch song has been relegated to bonus track status. It has hit written all over it and would probably be played at weddings for the next 20 years if released. "Million Dollar Man" made less of an impression but her haunting rendition of Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" was a triumph. If you think Lana is a one trick pony, listen to this cover on YouTube and get correct. "Carmen" and career-making viral hit "Video Games" came next and the sadcore pioneer unleashed some unexpected operatic flourishes - putting any doubts about her vocal ability to bed. The big-lipped beauty then performed "Radio" (one of the album's few filler cuts) before ending the 11-song set with "National Anthem". Lana walked back into the crowd to salute her fans, sparking a near riot, before politely saying goodbye and leaving without a backward glance. The lights went on and I immediately decided to go again tonight for another dose of gloomy pop perfection.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rita Ora Gets It Right

I have a lot of time for Rita Ora. She's gorgeous, can actually sing and has the Navy pressed, stressed and obsessed. And we all know why. Jay Z has hand-picked the Kosovo-born beauty to replace Rihanna as the face Roc Nation when that mess reaches her expiry date and the plan is more or less on track. "RIP" went straight to number one in the UK, while "How We Do (Party)" did damage in other markets - notably reaching the top 10 and going platinum in Australia. I liked both singles but they were pretty safe. A Tinie Tempah collaboration and Bonnie McKee-penned party anthem? Let's not get too crazy!

Now that the 21-year-old is a legitimate pop star, I've been waiting for Roc Nation to bring out the big guns and drop an absolute monster single. Mission accomplished. "Roc The Life" is the song that will make Ritallah happen in the States. Produced by The-Dream, who crafted such classics as Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" and Kim Kardashian's "Jam (Turn It Up)", the third cut from ORA is the catchiest pop tune I've heard in ages. I love the rock-infused production, Rita's nasal vocal and that obscenely catchy chorus. One listen to that "li li li li li li li life" hook and you're left gagging for more like a whore on heat. It's going to be massive, so just get used to it.

"Roc The Life" is all kinds of epic but I don't think we've seen the best of Rita. At the moment, Roc Nation is carefully making a star by sticking with a tried and tested formula. It's a bit disconcerting at times but it seems to be working. The rich man's Rihanna is an album or two away from showing what she can really do. In the meantime, I'm more than happy to stan for her radio-ready pop hits.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Melissa Tkautz Unveils Greatest Hits Artwork

Australian pop legend Melissa Tkautz is releasing a greatest hits compilation. Start crying and shaking. The flawless diva behind seminal classics like "Read My Lips" and "Sexy Is The Word" will unveil the full tracklist over the next few days but I'm hopeful a couple of unreleased gems like "Fake It Good" and "Not Enough" will make the cut. The Hits & More drops August 10. Let's pray iTunes can cope with the demand.

Country Queen Lisa Gail Allred's Latest Shocker/Masterpiece

"You're the one who makes me melt from the love that I have felt" chirps genius wordsmith Lisa Gail Allred on her breathtaking new single. "Coffee Or Tea" is the follow-up to "3 Second Rule" (AKA 2012's ultimate guilty pleasure) and delivers pretty much everything we've come to expect from the genre-defying Texan songbird. There are corny lyrics, a chorus that gets lodged in your brain like an extremely painful tumour and the most arresting vocals to assault your eardrums since those unautotuned Britney demos leaked. Needless to say, it's a hot mess of biblical proportions but Lisa's music has an undeniable sweetness about it that helps you overlook the crazy. Particularly if you ignore the video (below), which finds our heroine wandering around what appears to be her retirement village looking unmedicated. Who am I kidding? The new and improved Faith Hill rocks my world. Madonna wishes she was this relevant! Download "Coffee Or Tea" from iTunes today to make an old woman happy.

Bat For Lashes Returns With Laura

Bat For Lashes is probably my favourite clinically depressed indie-pop diva. Two Suns is still my preferred choice of listening material when I'm in a mood - so basically every day this year - and I have no hestitation ranking that album's lead single as one of the best pop songs of all time. And while her new single "Laura" doesn't quite reach the ominous heights of "Daniel", it's a hauntingly beautiful piece of music. The first taste of Natasha Khan's (her real name) third album is a grim piano ballad with typically poetic/depressing lyrics and the kind of emotion-packed vocal that rips your heart right out of your chest. I have to admit, I was hoping for more "Daniel"-esque twisted synth-pop this time around but "Laura" is pretty much perfect. There's not a lot to say about the video. It's sad, arty and stars an old tranny. That's a thumbs up from me then. If this is any indication of The Haunted Man (check out a taste of the slightly disturbing cover art above), the album going to be a down-tempo affair best-suited to late-night listening. Bring it on.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is Racism Rife Among K-Pop Fans? The Sweet Cake Saga

This was originally going to be a simple post introducing Sweet Cake. They are an adorable new girlband from Indonesia and already have a cute tune called "Cinta Yang Indah" under their belt. But during my search for more information on these powerhouse vocalists/all-around entertainers, I stumbled across a familiar phenomenon - an outpouring of hate and racist remarks from irate K-Pop fans. Sadly, it's not an isolated event. I noticed exactly the same thing when I researched Filipino girlband The Pop Girls and see similar comments every time I check out a Chinese act on YouTube. What's going on?

I understand some of the frustration with Sweet Cake. Their extremely low-budget video borrows heavily from Orange Caramel's "After School". But that clip was hardly original. Gwen Stefani already went down the Alice In Wonderland route a decade earlier and every second K-Pop diva steals shamelessly from Beyoncé's iconic visuals. Can't Orange Caramel fans just see the video as a tribute? I don't know much about the music scene in Indonesia but I'm guessing it's fairly rudimentary in comparison to the well-oiled Korean machine. Would it be so hard to encourage Sweet Cake instead of tearing them down? It's time for K-Pop fans to take a seat. That nation doesn't own the copyright on Asian pop music.

Anyway, back to Sweet Cake. I have no idea what "Cinta Yang Indah" is about or what the title even means - I'm hoping someone will enlighten me - but it's a perky pop song with a catchy chorus. And those qualities are international. As for the band, I can't find any information on them apart from the fact that the line-up appears to change every five minutes. I'm pretty sure they started off as a three-piece before expanding. The video (below) is not great but they are so endearing, it's hard to resist. Sweet Cake can't quite match it with flawless divas like 4Minute just yet but there is room for them in the weird and wonderful world of pop. Make them feel welcome.

When Did Justice Crew Suddenly Become Amazing?

You have to hand it to Sony for sticking with Justice Crew. The 7-piece hip-hop boyband won Australia's Got Talent in 2010 but never really happened. That sounds extremely harsh when you consider that their first two singles went platinum but both peaked well outside the top 10 and they experienced diminishing returns with their next couple of records - the most recent of which, "Sexy And You Know It", did not chart at all. However, instead of sending the boys packing, Sony got them a support slot on what felt like every big tour to reach Australia (Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, One Direction etc) and waited for them to build a organic following. Then they went out and sourced them an incredible urban-dance song.

"Boom Boom" is an instant smash. From the first listen, you just knew that this would be huge. It's a fun party anthem with killer beats and a sing-a-long chorus. In other words, an absolute no-brainer. The track exploded on iTunes and became the band's first top 10 hit on Sunday. When radio catches up, don't be surprised if "Boom Boom" climbs to #1. And then there's the video (below). Justice Crew won Australia's Got Talent largely on the strength of their amazing dance moves and it's great to see them showcase that ability here. The emphasis on choreography gives the video an unexpected K-Pop flavour - this is the kind of visual B2ST might drop! Oh and they get semi-naked at the end, so extra points for that. These guys just became the hottest pop act in the country.

Lana Del Rey's Summertime Sadness - Video Review

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Lana Del Rey's "National Anthem" video and praised it for being moody, evocative and for having something to say. The first two adjectives definitely apply to the latest visual (below) from my favourite indie-pop goddess but I'm not sure about the latter compliment. "Summertime Sadness" finds the perennially doomed and depressed diva on autopilot. Sure, the clip is absolutely gorgeous to look at. That's a given. But you could film this bitch doing the dishes in a hessian sack and it would be a work of art. Lana is beautiful, her style is impeccable and I adore the hazy, sepia palette she has made her own. However, film noir references and an overworked smoke machine don't quite cut it this time around.

The plot is simple but enticing. Lana and Jamie King (whatever happened to her film career?) play lesbian lovers, who spend a lot of time gazing at each other longingly before killing themselves. That storyline should compliment the song perfectly but the execution is lacking. "National Anthem" was overly ambitious and meandering but intelligent and beautifully constructed. This, on the other hand, looks cheap and rushed. The editing is sloppy, our heroine looks slightly demented and the connection between the lovers is about as convincing as a love scene between Jodie Foster and John Travolta. It's all just a little too obvious. If Saturday Night Live spoofed a Lana Del Rey video - the result would look a lot like this. But having said all that, it still shits on your fave.

Take the opening death scene. That's one of the most arresting moments in music video history. It's eerily beautiful and quintessentially Lana. Then there's the overwrought lesbian melodrama, which I love, and the ominous angles and lighting. Most importantly, "Summertime Sadness" has an impeccable soundtrack. This brooding anthem positively seethes with malcontent. Think Nancy Sinatra on LSD and a half a dozen downers. I've said it before but the 26-year-old has an incomparable knack for creating (a usually depressing) mood. My new obsession rolls into town this week and I'll be there front and centre, waiting Lana to belt out modern classics like this. I just hope she keeps the smoke machine at home.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jenifer - Sur Le Fil

I've been posting a lot of French pop music lately. Nobody seems particularly interested but that's never stopped me. My latest obsession is Jenifer. She's basically the French Kelly Clarkson - albeit without the huge voice and power ballads. The 29-year-old diva won the first season of Star Academy in 2002 (an Idol/X Factor type talent show) and has remained (relatively) popular ever since, while other contestants have faded into oblivion. I imported her last album after stumbling across the still flawless "Je Danse" online and was excited to learn that Jen is back to school your faves in the art of pop. "Sur Le Fil" is an absolute triumph. It's equal parts "Moves Like Jagger" and Daftpunk - with a generous splash of the French beauty's own brand of elegant dance-pop. An English version of the song would be absolutely massive. It's so summery and catchy! Annoyingly, "Sur Le Fil" isn't available on Australian iTunes - so you'll have to import her album or get creative. In the meantime, check out the colourful video (below) and brace yourself for one of 2012's best tunes.

Christina Parie Talks X Factor, Avril & Katy Perry

Christina Parie first came to Australia's attention as a contestant on last year's X Factor. Her rock chick attitude and quirky covers made her an instant fan favourite and she eventually placed 6th. Warner Music saw something special in the 16-year-old and recently released her debut EP - the surprisingly enjoyable 16 & Unstoppable. It's Avril Lavigne meets The Veronicas pop/rock for moderately angst-ridden teenagers but it works for me. I met up with Christina to discuss the EP and her future plans last week. Check it out.

"16 & Unstoppable" has finally landed. How does it feel? 
It’s a nice feeling. It’s a good feeling. I don’t think people realise how much work goes into putting a single together, putting an EP together. All the crap you have to go through. All the stuff you have to organise. So to finally see it was a nice relief. It was a great feeling.

Tell me about the song. Who did you work with? What was the inspiration behind it?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t part of the writing. I was writing with these guys at Hit City and one of them played the beginning of “16 and Unstoppable”. I was like - that’s cool, work on that. I want to hear more of it. And then the next time I came in they had finished the song. Hayley Warner was in and she was fixing the second verse and I was like – wow, the song’s already done. Great! They got me to sing on the track and then when we were trying to pick a single, it really stood it. We all thought it was really cool. We knew it was an instant hit, so we went with that.

And the video (below)? It looks like you had a lot of fun.
I come from playing in bands – pub rock punk bands – and now emerging as a solo artist, a pop artist, I wanted to keep a bit of me rock roots and the first thing I think of when I think of rock is rebellion. There were a few mixed comments about how people perceived it. There were a couple that said what is she doing? Her mother would hate her if she did this! And then there were others that found it really cool. I’m kind of glad there was criticism. That’s my rock side.

It’s good to get a bit of controversy...
Yeah, it means people watched it. That’s great.

You’ve talked about your roots. How did you start out before X Factor?
I started off acting. I went to acting school. Then I started singing lessons on the side. I was like, I don’t wanna do it. But that’s where I met Victor Reyes who has been the mentor of my whole career. He started teaching me when I was 10. Then at 14 he introduced me to the first band and we did a few gigs and then I got my own band and started doing more gigs. Then I did the whole festival thing and band competitions. Now I’m here! Loved a lot of Blink 182 growing up. Loved Avril Lavigne. I love The Pretty Reckless - stuff like that.

I was going to ask if those younger pop/rock chicks like Taylor Momsen are the artists you look up to.
Yeah definitely. Girls like Hayley Williams, Avril Lavigne but I also like my pop/rock as well – like Katy Perry, P!nk and Kelly Clarkson. They’re all great but Avril Lavigne is my favourite. Growing up I used to wear the boy shorts and the chain.

She’s awesome. Do you have a favourite song?
You know what? I don’t know why but I’ve always just loved “Sk8er Boi”. I love her older stuff. You go into my mum’s car and it’s full of all Avril’s old CDs – Under My Skin, Let Go. All that stuff!

I guess that takes us to X Factor. For someone that was singing in rock bands – was that a bit of a shock to your system to be doing pop covers?
You know how that came about? My friends and family said I should do it. My whole life I was always like – I’m not going to go on a TV show. They’re just going to judge me. It was a week out from auditions and I just thought – whatever. I’ll give it a go. And yeah, I got a lot further than I thought I would. When I made it past the TV auditions and got to boot camp, I was like – I’m happy with this. I remember walking down the first day at boot camp and I thought it was like being surrounded by barbie dolls. They were all wearing the dresses , poofy hair and beautiful make-up and I was wearing purple jeans and a t-shirt. Yeah, X Factor – it made me pop but now I’m mixing in a bit of rock. It’s a good mix for me.

Were you expecting to progress and do so well in the show? You were one of the fan favourites.
I really did not expect it. After every round I was like – I’m happy with that. I’m happy with that. I eventually came 6th. I’m happy with that. That’s great. I only decided to audition a week out. It was all so last minute.

How soon after the show ended did you hear from Warner?
At the beginning of this year, they were like – look, go down your stuff and come back to us with what you’ve got. They liked it and then they signed me. They had their eye on me and then when the final product came around, they were cool.

So you had quite a lot of control over your own sound then.
Exactly, yeah.

So what was the brief when you went into the studio?
For the first single I knew I was going to have to lean towards pop. That’s what’s current. You can hear on my EP, it just gets more rock and more mature. You can hear in the stuff I’m writing now – I’ve already grown a lot and I want people to grow with me. I love how they gave me creative control by saying – go into the studio and come back to us.

What’s the plan from here? How are you going to get your song hear?
I’m going to do a few shows and a lot of radio and TV. I guess we’re just going to see how well the song sells and go from there.

You’ve got a really strong online following. How important is that?
Online is where it’s at these days. I go home and get on Twitter. It’s great and my following is incredible for someone that placed 6th in a show and didn’t even make the grand final. I’m incredibly grateful. Usually after the show, it all dies down but to have so many people still following me is great.

How are you going to separate yourself from the other X Factor alumni?
I’m just doing my thing. When you come off those shows, you don’t know exactly what you want and end up doing what everyone tells you to do but being with Warner – they’re so open-minded and ask me about everything. I have a say in everything. They’re putting it in my control. This is me shaping me. This isn’t someone telling me this is what Christina Parie is going to be like. It’s so personal and it’s me driving it... I think that’s what really separates me. Well, I hope so.

Are you still in touch with anyone from X Factor?
I think we just end up seeing each other at places like the Katy Perry movie premiere. I saw Luke Jacobz and Reece. It’s so friendly when we see each other. We have a chat and a catch up but we definitely need a reunion or something.

One last question – if you could pick anyone, whose career would you most like to have?
After seeing her movie, Katy Perry. I want to make a difference like her. I just don’t know how I’m going to do it yet! We’ll see. That’s my goal.

Good luck with that! All the best.

A First-Hand Account Of La Toya's Erotic Club Tour

The absolute nadir of La Toya's otherwise epic and era-defining career has to be 1995's erotic club tour. While many of Ms Jackson's mid-90s mishaps have innate camp appeal, I don't find anything amusing about this sorry debacle. Toy's abusive ex-husband basically forced her to perform in strip clubs across America to capitalise on her post-Playboy status as the sexiest woman alive. And judging from the footage that has since surfaced, it was every bit as pitiful as it sounds. Michael's favourite sister appears completely disorientated in the long out-of-print VHS and the crowd's reaction was not exactly understanding of her obvious discomfort and terror.

I've always wanted to learn more about the fan reaction to La Toya's erotic club tour but I've never been able to find a first-hand account. That changed a couple of weeks ago when was contacted by a fellow Jackson nut, who attended the show in Ohio. Ric Hunter kindly shared his recollections with me and even attached a happy snap he took with the superstar. It's compelling stuff. First, there's the setlist. Of course Jack Gordon forced her to sing one of Michael's classics but what was with all the ballads? I love "Somewhere" but I can't think of a less appropriate song to sing in a strip club. Then there's the heartbreaking part about Toy asking the crowd of blue collar workers if they were "feeling romantic". Because that's why you rock up to the Gentleman's Club with a roll of $1 bills in your pocket - to find romance! Poor thing.

Thanks again to Ric for sharing his memories of the event and for allowing me to post it. The next time you feel like poking fun at Toy Toy, remember that she's been to hell and back. A weaker spirit would have given up but La Toya persevered and is now coming into her own. At the age of 56 she's more popular and relevant than ever. Her ability to start over is an inspiration to us all.

Erotic Club Tour Review

My partner Joe and I have been Janet Jackson fans since day one of her recording career. We were even able to meet Janet twice, while she was still married to Rene Elizondo. So in 1995, when La Toya Jackson-Gordon came to our town of Columbus, Ohio for a brief "cabaret" tour, seeing the show seemed to be a logical thing to do. Of course, who knew that we would have to go to an exotic dance club to see her? At the time I was in my late 20s and had never been to a Gentleman’s Club before. Since I wasn’t "into girls", I had no desire to go to such a place. They usually weren’t in the best areas of town either — if you can imagine.

Anyway, the Excalibur Club was clean enough on the inside, but still very seedy. Joe and I paid the $30 cover charge and stuck out like two sore thumbs amongst the factory worker crowd. La Toya was late going on, probably because the club wanted the crowd to drink-up and buy $5.00 table dances while they waited. La Toya took the stage and performed 5 songs with 2 back-up dancers. One dancer was a male (he was traveling with her) and the other was a local female. If memory serves, La Toya’s brief set consisted of: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”, “Shake Your Body (Down To the Ground)”, “You Can Count on Me”, “Playboy” and “Somewhere”.

Before singing “Somewhere”, La Toya asked the audience if they were feeling romantic. Keep in mind this place was full of big, burly guys who came to see partially-clad women dance for money — romance was probably far from their minds. The short show was ok, but then Joe and I didn’t expect much either. We knew that La Toya was more of a performer and personality than a singer. Still it was a thrill to see her up-close. However, the real show happened after the stage performance. After her brief set, one could pay an additional $25 to meet La Toya and get a photo taken with her.

Joe and I waited in a pitifully short line for our turn to meet La Toya at her meet and greet. By now La Toya had changed from her show costume (sequins, boots and glittery headband) to a big fluffy bathrobe. She seemed small and scared and in a medicated-like stupor. I suddenly felt terribly guilty — like somehow I was this ogre who made La Toya resort to this cheap show. You could see it in La Toya’s face that she seemed to regret the club tour. She quietly posed for photos with us and she signed a couple of our CDs. It was very humbling to see her so frail and frightened. My heart actually ached for her.

Before leaving the club Joe and I got a glimpse of Jack Gordon. I knew he had a bad reputation, but I decided that I would try to talk to him anyway. When would we ever have an opportunity to meet him again? When I approached Jack, he acted like I was serving him with court papers. I said, “Hi, aren’t you Jack Gordon?” and his reply to me was “Yeah, who wants to know?” He looked as slimy close-up as you can imagine. I think given the chance he would have killed me if there were no witnesses around.

La Toya’s club show played for a couple nights at Columbus’ Excalibur Club. According to our local news, on the last night, La Toya supposedly became fed-up, scolded some hecklers in the audience, and departed the stage early. I think folks kept yelling for her to strip. What’s even sadder is that La Toya and Jack had to hitch a ride to their hotel with one of the club patrons. After the Gordons abruptly canceled the show, the owner of the Excalibur Club canceled their limo service.

Despite the scandalous end to La Toya’s show, it was a great memory. In the end, La Toya appeared to be very kind and grateful for the support of the fans that came to the show. My autographed Polaroid is still one of my favorite mementos.

Georgi Kay - Lucky Number 13

Earlier this week I wrote an article for Idolator about women on the cusp of pop greatness. The title of the piece was 12 Women About To Pop In 2012 but math has never been my strength and I, rather stupidly, profiled 13 soon-to-explode divas. One had to go and Australia's Georgi Kay drew the short straw. Shame. The 19-year-old has been generating buzz for the past couple of years on the indie singer-songwriter scene but she reached a whole new audience with her feature on Ivan Gough & Feenixpawl's club smash "In My Mind".

That became a huge crossover radio hit and eventually caught the attention of Flo Rida. He has a history of bastardising club hits - see his destruction of Avicii's "Levels" - but "In My Mind (Part Two)" works quite well and is already shooting up iTunes. Georgi could have the last laugh and get the jump on the other ladies on my list if the song is selected as a single in the US. Anyway, here's my deleted Idolator blurb about the girl some critics are hailing Australia's next big thing:

Australian pop stars really made their mark on the Hot 100 this year. Gotye topped the chart for 8 weeks with “Somebody That I Used To Know”, Sia visited the top 10 twice and Havana Brown is still climbing the countdown with her infectious party anthem “We Run The Night”. The next addition to that list could be 19-year-old Georgi Kay. She has been a rising star on the indie-pop scene since releasing her debut EP in 2009 but stepped outside her comfort zone to lend her smoky vocals to Ivan Gough and Feenixpawl’s dance smash “In My Mind”. That record was subsequently discovered by Flo Rida and heavily sampled on the appropriately-titled “In My Mind (Part Two)” – a cut from his Wild Ones album.

Check out 2011's "Lionheart" (below) for a better idea of Georgi's pared-back, folk-pop sound. I can't wait for her next move. That voice is completely disarming and I love that she looks like a less feminine member of Tokio Hotel.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Critically Acclaimed Madonna Shade

I've been quoted in a BBC article about the cancellation of Madonna's tour. This shit is comedy gold. I always knew my big mouth would take me places! I'm also available for insightful commentary on Rihanna, Cheryl Cole and Delta Goodrem if required.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Madonna's Turn Up The Radio - Video Review

I remember when a new Madonna video was an international event. These days the poor bitch has to settle for a couple of middle-aged gays losing their shit on Twitter. Life is cruel. "Turn Up The Radio" is the third visual from her aluminum-selling MDNA album and, happily, marks something of a return to form. Don't get me wrong. This is no masterpiece and it pales in comparison to the latest efforts from relevant pop stars like Katy Perry but it's harmless fun and Madonna looks less terrifying than usual in the daylight. Here are 5 random thoughts about "Turn Up The Radio":

1. The song is truly awful. I hated Hard Candy but at least it had two good cuts.

2. Madonna does not understand irony. This song will never be played on the radio and the diva's fans are too old to follow her along the winding streets of Italy without zimmer frames and assistance animals.

3. Why have the videos from MDNA been so cheap? The former hitmaker is one of the richest women alive. She can afford to drop a couple of million on a memorable clip instead of working with the kind of budget Dannii is usually lumped with.

4. The concept reminds me a bit of Kreayshawn's "Gucci Gucci" video - only with an exotic locale and attractive people.

5. Madonna looks nice and she appears to be having a good time. I just don't know why she bothered. The clip isn't spectacular enough to help the single and the song isn't good enough to boost the album. She'd be better off rush-recording a couple of new tracks and re-releasing MDNA. Pop stars who still care about their career do it all the time.

I guess we should be grateful that the fiery senior citizen is still releasing singles from an album that fell off the chart faster than Bionic. I just think she can do so much better. Excuse me while I go and watch "Love Profusion" on repeat.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jenefer Siân Drops Killer Mixtape

Early last year I wrote a post about budding diva Jenefer Siân. She released a couple of homemade - literally - pop songs that caught my attention and I eventually got to see her perform live in LA. It was a great show and she is a great girl, so I've been gagging for new material. The wait is finally over with a new mixtape hitting the net on Friday. I Wish A Bitch Would is a huge leap forward from her first few attempts. The Welsh born, Hollywood-based beauty now sounds like a fully fledged pop star and should start generating some serious heat with these tunes. Check out the tracklist below:

1. Show Me 
2. Boys Up On Us 
3. Ego 
4. Up In Smoke 
5. Hey Hey My My

And yes, track three is a Beyoncé cover. Jenny even does the Kanye rap! I'm wary of anyone touching King B's flawless work - particularly her ode to big dicks - but this gets my seal of approval. The Neil Young cover is also touching. It's a tribute to the singer's late father and you can tell it comes straight from the heart. As for the originals, "Show Me" is my pick. It was written by Michaela "Mickey" Shiloh, who had a song on Britney's Femme Fatale album, and sounds a bit like a cut from that opus. Only with better vocals.

"Boys Up On Us" and "Up In Smoke", the latter was penned entirely by Jen, are also great pop songs. Again, there's a touch of Britney to the sound. I also hear a bit of Jennifer Lopez and underground pop icon Kaci Battaglia. All good. Download I Wish A Bit Would - and sign up for Jenefer's mailing list for future developments - by heading over to her site. It's well worth the effort.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Katie Price's Cross-dressing Ex Releases Single

Every time I think I've scraped the bottom of the pop trash barrel, along comes something even more tragic. Tonight's gem is the debut single from Jordan's cross-dressing Ex. Alex Reid re-defines hot mess. His career progression went something like this: Cage fighter > sexing Katie Price > famed transvestite > international embarrassment. Shake my fucking head. Anyway, the 36-year-old has extended his 15 minutes by releasing a song called "Stardust". His voice sounds worse than Cheryl Cole singing acapella but this isn't the aural rape I was expecting. A collaboration with Welsh producers Shelter, the harmless dance anthem boasts a sweet little chorus. If they had given it to someone less ridiculous, "Stardust" could have been a good record but even in its current state, I'm a reluctant fan. The video (below) is less successful. Alex looks like he's taken one too many blows to the head and the whole concept is unintentionally hilarious. On the bright side, this is probably the least shameful moment of the Brit's post-martial arts career.

Mexican Pop Queen María José Remains Better Than Ya Faves

Sometimes I think Mexico is my spiritual home. With flawless divas like Paulina Rubio, Lucero, Patricia Manterola, Fey, Belinda, Anahí and Lorena Herrera churning out albums faster than a Korean girlband - there's always something new and utterly defining to discover. One of my favourite Mexi-pop icons is María José. Her last two albums featured on my best of 2009 and 2010 countdowns, and I still play her amazing Katy Perry rip-off "No soy una Señora" on an almost-daily basis. Well, the 36-year-old pop icon is back with a new single called "Tú Ya Sabes A Mí" and it's another triumph. After two covers albums, it's nice to hear something original from María. Her smoky voice brings the perky dance anthem to life and that 2003-tastic Mexican production does it for me. The video (below), on the other hand, is a crime against good taste. Even Fey would draw the line at this boring mess! Oh well, you can't have it all. The ravishing beauty is going to unleash her 4th studio album very soon. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Katy Perry's Part Of Me - Movie Review

The immensity of what Katy Perry has achieved during the Teenage Dream era can not be overstated. Love her or hate her, the statistics are mind-boggling. Five consecutive US number one singles. Six US chart-toppers in total. Eight top five hits. A record 69 consecutive weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 top ten. In the space of one album, the 27-year-old catapulted from the B List (I say that with affection) to the very top of the pop ladder. For all the hype surrounding Lady Gaga and Rihanna, neither could keep pace with the one-time gospel singer from Santa Barbara. Some put her ascent down to canny marketing and brilliant A&R work from the label but there's no denying that Katy has tapped into the zeitgeist better than anyone. Given her current status as the Queen of popular music, it's fitting that the game-changing Teenage Dream era - and her mammoth California Dreams tour - were captured for posterity.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Part Of Me will, most likely, not clean up at next year's Academy Awards' ceremony. From of a technical point of view, it's sloppy and comes across as far too scripted for a serious documentary. It's also cheesier than an unwashed dick but fuck it's entertaining. The 3D concert footage is a treat for fans, while the footage documenting Katy's pre-fame struggle to get an album released is a must-see for anyone interested in the music industry. But more about that later. The main focus of the film is her 124-date California Dreams tour and its impact on her marriage to Russell Brand. I saw the show when it rolled into Sydney last year (check out my review) and had a great time. However, the footage used in Part Of Me doesn't really do it justice. The costumes look cheap - and often unflattering - up close and it exposes her labored dance moves instead of focusing on her warmth, funny banter and tight live vocals.

The behind-the-scenes material is where it's really at. I love that her failed gospel career wasn't swept under the rug. Seeing the clips of her parents preaching was mind-boggling and I stan for that dance song she sang about Jesus. Please let that clip eventually find a home on YouTube! I also appreciated getting some insight into her five year stint in LA prior to signing with Capitol Records. Katy's first record deal is explored - a song called "Simple" (above), which features in the movie, did make the Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants soundtrack in 2005 before she got dropped - and it was eerie seeing the publicity pics from her stint with super-producers The Matrix. As she says in an interview, it got to the point where Katy was considered damaged goods in the industry. I guess there's hope for Sky Ferreira and Natalia Kills yet. The highlight for me was seeing "The Box" (below) on the big screen. How great is her early stuff? If anyone is stupid enough to say she doesn't have any talent, direct them to that song and then slap them.

Another great thing about Part Of Me was witnessing Katy's loyalty to her managers, stylist, assistant and make-up artist. They have all worked with her from the beginning and seem like a family. Speaking of which, her relationship with her sister was also endearing. The hitmaker comes across really well - perhaps too well. I couldn't give a fuck about Russell Brand but it's hard not to be cynical about the way their break-up is presented. Also, Katy's nervous breakdown is depicted as a couple of tears and a lie-in before a concert. Given her Christian values, I'm sure the end of her marriage was brutal but team Perry is determined to only show so much. In their defense, the pop phenomenon has a relatively young fanbase and I'm not sure the under 10s are ready for too much realness. The absolute lowlight for me was showing sympathy tweets from fans on screen. It was unintentionally hysterical and made me want to jump on Twitter and drag some Katy Cats but hey, I'm a bit of cunt like that.

At the end of the 90 minute film, I felt a bit closer to the woman behind the cartoonish costumes and heavy make-up. I also felt a little sad. Katy spoke so passionately about wanting to do her thing but - as much as I love her flawless music - I think she'd be happier churning out the grungy brand of pop/rock of her early demos. Hopefully, she can move in that direction for her next album. Given her Midas touch, I'm convinced she could make anything a hit.


Pop Legend Brigitte Nielsen Returns!

This is a great week for music. Frank Ocean released his flawless debut, No Doubt previewed their first new single in over a decade and Brigitte Nielsen came out retirement to record a faceless dance record that will, most likely, never get an official release. I'm beside myself! So, where do I start with Sylvester Stallone's former wife? The 48-year-old Dane is a true eccentric. The occasional model/actress has a reputation for being all kinds of crazy but her two albums are pop perfection. Check out my review of the seminal I Am The One... Nobody Else for a greater insight into her musical genius. And don't forget the diva's duet with fellow legend RuPaul. You need to watch this incredibly awkward live appearance in Spain, where Gitte insists on speaking Italian and generally acts insane. The bemused look on Ru's face is priceless! That leads us to the diva's new anthem. "Misery" (below) is a cute dance anthem. Brigitte's vocal is relatively inoffensive and the production is better than I expected. Personally, I prefer her hard-hitting urban jams but this will do nicely. Welcome this beloved pop trash icon back into the fold!

Monday, July 09, 2012

When Did P!nk Become So Beige?

P!nk's new single is already #1 on Australian iTunes and will, no doubt, usher in another era of unprecedented success in this country. Shame then she's still churning out the same old shit. The 32-year-old's last two albums went an incredible 22-times platinum between them and established Alecia as our pop star of choice. I've always thought her popularity over here stems largely from her anti-establishment attitude and the perception that she's not a record company product - unlike, say, Rihanna or Katy Perry. There was a time when I would have agreed.

I love P!nk's first four albums and was really excited when I'm Not Dead revived her stalled career. Sure, the album stole borrowed heavily from Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway but the mouthy diva's brand of pop/rock was tougher and seemed more authentic to her image. Unfortunately, that sound hasn't evolved one iota in 7 years and, rather hypocritically, she keeps working with the same producers as her so-called manufactured colleagues - only with diminishing returns. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" is a pleasant enough way to pass four minutes but it's beyond generic and ultimately boring as fuck.

If you play "So What", "Raise Your Glass" and "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" back-to-back, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of outrageous extended mix. They cover similar lyrical territory, have an identical structure and include the obligatory swearing to prove that P!nk is still cool and rebellious. Bitch, take a seat. This shit is getting old and is doubly frustrating because she could mix it up. Why not rock out completely or take it right back? Tracks like "Glitter In The Air" saved Funhouse with their raw simplicity.

On a good day, P!nk is one of the best in the business but let's be real for a minute. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" is lazy. She should take a note from Katy Perry and try something new once or twice a decade.


The Glorious Return Of Ysa Ferrer

I love French pop music. It's fresh, fun and - most of the time - kinda classy. At least in comparison to the shit that gets made over here. Over the years, I've featured Lorie, the legendary Mylène and, more recently, Shy'm but I can't believe I've overlooked the Queen of the gay scene, Ysa Ferrer. She is a high-camp force of nature with a loyal cult following from Madrid to Moscow. I live for her refined plastic surgery, less-is-more approach to fashion and stunning club anthems like the Chew Fu-produced "French Kiss". Think Heidi Montag with an accent - yes, she's THAT good!

The flawless 40-year-old makes great music but the diva really trades on her outrageous image, particularly in Eastern Europe where she claims to be bigger than Kylie. Cough. I guess that explains the mind-bending ridiculousness of her latest video. "Pom Pom Girl" is a typically catchy pop tune with a bit of chanting and a chorus that would make Kyary Pamyu Pamyu weep with envy but the clip... is so awful that I keep pressing repeat out of sheer fascination. There are drag queens, gay bodybuilders and the worst dance routine this side of a Cheryl Cole video.

Needless to say I love it and hope she continues ruling gay nightclubs in rural France for the next 20 years. All hail Madame Ferrer.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Ilia Darlin Continues To Win

The more I hear of Greek synth-pop diva Ilia Darlin, the more I love her. She first appeared on my radar in early 2011 with a cute Lady Gaga knock-off called "Car Crash", which she appears to have subsequently disowned, before emerging again in January this year with the poptastic "Hit Me". Her sound and image continue to evolve with "Even When I Lose I'm Winning". This flawless pop gem has a distinctly '80s vibe that I love and the kind of anthemic chorus that would guarantee a huge hit for someone with a higher profile. Fans of dreamy synths will also get their fix here. Ilia is really impressive. She takes pop seriously and deserves to be in the same conversation as European pop icons like Robyn, Yelle and Vanbot. Everything from the cover art (above) to the song and quirky video (video) works perfectly. Speaking of the latter, I don't know whether to be terrified or turned on by the leotard-clad molester! Lady Gaga could never.

Jessie Ware's Finest Moment

I'm extremely wary of over-hyped English pop divas. For every Ellie Goulding there are ten Little Boots and watching the wannabes crash and burn isn't as much fun as it used to be. The current queen of the British pop scene is a sultry singer called Jessie Ware. All the usual suspects are hailing her as the next big thing but until now her biggest hit - the rather dire "110%" - landed at a Róisín Murphy-tastic #61. So is she any good? Jessie reminds me of a less neurotic Marina & The Diamonds crossed with that crazy-looking chick from Swing Out Sister. Which is a compliment. I think.

Her voice is sublime and she has a great image but the music has been a bit hit and miss for me. I loved the Sade-lite of "Running" but the aforementioned "110%" was the most self-conscious pop experiment of 2012. Happily, she has another winner on her hands with "Wildest Moments". This soft and delicate ballad is the pretty brunette's most appealing single to date. It's also her most commercial. I can imagine this on the radio, connecting with moody teenagers and bored housewives alike. The lyrics are ring true and the production is gorgeous. I even love the video (below). It couldn't be more simple but it works. If Jessie keeps delivering tunes like this, I'm well and truly on board.

Alanis Morissette Releases Her Best Song In Years

And nobody gives a shit. It's a shame because we need the Canadian superstar now more than ever. Her razor-sharp lyrics and unwavering honesty are the perfect antidote to the mindless club-bangers polluting the airwaves and she's finally tapping into the pop-friendly sound that made Jagged Little Pill one of the highest-selling albums of all time. That classic captured the hopes and fears of a generation but it also set Alanis up for constant failure. Almost a decade has passed since she last graced the US or Australian singles chart ("Everything" was a very minor hit in 2004) but her new single is a radio-ready smash. That will most likely never get a spin on the airwaves. At least in this country.

"Guardian" (below) reunites the formerly angst-ridden diva with Guy Sigsworth, who previously worked with her on 2008's underrated Flavors Of Entanglement. He has a knack for showcasing the lighter side of the now 38-year-old, who sings what is basically a love letter to her recently-born son. I've missed the way Alanis plays with words like Scrabble master and Guy's light and breezy production makes the song a lot less soppy than it has any right to be. The first taste of Havoc and Bright Lights is an unexpected return to form. I really hope the poster girl of the '90s promotes the fuck out of her 8th studio album. There's no reason why she can't still have hits with music this good.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Why Frank Ocean Matters

Earlier this week reports began circulating online that rising R&B star Frank Ocean had recorded love songs about men on his hugely-anticipated debut album Channel Orange. Most fans dismissed the rumours or simply put the references down to storytelling - they reasoned that he was simply singing the songs from a woman's perspective. The reputable urban music blogs ignored the story altogether until the talented 24-year-old posted a letter on Tumblr, admitting that his first love was a man. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that the Odd Future collaborator's announcement shook the music world to its core. Which is kind of strange. Gay pop stars are everywhere these days - so why is Frank Ocean's decision to come out so important and newsworthy?

With all due respect to the flag-flying gays doing their thing in the music business, the vast majority cater to relatively niche markets (Jónsi, Rufus Wainwright, RuPaul and Sam Sparro) or came out well into an already successful career (George Michael, Ricky Martin and Darren Hayes). Adam Lambert is the only gay singer of note to really wear his sexuality as a badge from the very beginning. But pop fans have always been comparatively gay-friendly and he had the most successful TV show in the world to help introduce him to the masses. Frank, on the other hand, works in a section of the music industry where it's still completely acceptable - and commonplace - to call someone a fag and drop homophobic remarks. The urban music scene celebrates hyper-masculinity with all that talk about bitches and hoes. Frank just turned the whole genre upside down and inside out. And he's not an unknown. The velvet-voiced crooner has been hailed as the next big thing. He won almost universal critical acclaim for his mixtape and has collaborated with hip hop heavyweights like Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé.

This is a man that sang about fucking his girl long and good on "Novacane" - so it's no surprise that his coming out has been a complete mind fuck for some fans. And yet, the overwhelming response has been positive. Artists like Rita Ora, Trina and Tyler, The Creator praised his honesty, most haters shrugged off the news after a couple of days and a herd of curious gays jumped on iTunes to check out his amazing music (I suggest starting with "Swim Good" - below - or the epic 10 minute triumph "Pyramids"). Beyoncé even penned a tribute to him on her website. The response gives me hope that the world is actually changing. Frank's bravery has inspired me more than I ever imagined and I'm more excited than ever to hear Channel Orange. If it's half as good as the buzz singles, we're in for one of the best albums of 2012.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Most Eye-Popping Video Of 2012

Do you like gay porn and pop music? If the answer is yes, then - chances are - The Aikiu's new video is for you. I'm not going to pretend like I have any idea who these guys are. According to their website they hail from Paris and have released a couple of well-received EPs. Obviously tired of waiting for the world to catch on to the magnificence of their sweet electronic sound, they took matters into their own hands and delivered the year's most outrageous video to promote new single "Pieces Of Gold". The song is great but, let's face it, most people are here for the visual aspect. Gay porn (there are no bits on display but this is definitely NSFW) is interspliced with footage of the band performing. It's clever and very, very funny. There really is nothing less sexy than someone's fuck face.  So The Aikiu have caught my attention. Looking forward to their next move.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Lana Del Rey's National Anthem - Video Review

We've already passed the half-way mark of 2012 - how scary is that? - and, somewhat surprisingly, Lana Del Rey's Born To Die remains my favourite album of the year. It's not a perfect collection of songs but the big-lipped bombshell pieced together a beautifully tattered piece of Americana that somehow lives up to the hype. Almost as importantly, I think the 26-year-old is the first pop star since Lady Gaga to emerge with a complete and cohesive vision as to how she wants to look and be presented to the public. That's not a dig about the Lizzy Grant years. Unlike Mother Monster, I think the "Video Games" songbird is strangely authentic - Lana Del Rey is the woman she always wanted to be and she is bringing her to life with each new song, video and photoshoot. Take her brilliant "National Anthem" video clip.

Lana's twisted theme-song is a curious choice of single. The exquisite "Summertime Sadness" was released in Germany instead of this and became a top 20 hit without a video or promotion. It would have been a more commercial choice but I kind of like that the hottest new act of 2012 appears to have little interest in chart domination - releasing two-year-old songs as singles and throwing out a new video every couple of months. The visual aspect of her craft is one of the diva's strengths and "National Anthem" gives Lana the perfect platform to explore her vintage ice-maiden persona. Recreating some of the most famous moments of the 20th century (Marilyn Monroe's iconic rendition of "Happy Birthday" and JFK's shooting) was always going to be controversial but it rather brilliantly makes the singer-songwriter's point - that America's obsession with money, fame and notoriety is rotting it, from the inside out.

Produced by Anthony Mandler, the clip is a visual feast. Lana looks more gorgeous than usual and I never realised Rocky A$AP (who plays JFK) was so fucking hot. There's nothing subtle about the video but it's so ambitious and over-the-top that it holds your interest from the opening scene to the final spoken-word epilogue. The photography is stunning and I love the costumes. My favourite look is the Jackie O ensemble in the garden. How does she pull off this shit off without looking like she just walked out of a Halloween party? It's hard to believe that Anthony Mandler's last video was Onika's horrendous "Starships". I guess he has to pay his rent like the rest of us. "National Anthem" isn't Lana's best video - that would be "Born To Die" - but it's moody, evocative and has something to say. Meanwhile, your fave is dancing around the club like an idiot in her $10 clip. So take a seat and soak up some real art (below).


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

International Love For Eva Simons

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about Eva Simons and predicted that 2012 would be her year. And, as usual, I was right! This week, the Dutch diva scores her first UK number one hit courtesy of her fabulous feature on's "This Is Love" and tops the US club chart with solo single "I Don't Like You". A pretty good week by anyone's standards! Australia has also succumbed to the "Silly Boy" singer. "This Is Love" jumped into the top 10 on Sunday and looks set to climb even further. I'm ecstatic for Eva. She copped a lot of flack at the beginning of her career for perceived similarities to Rihanna and Lady Gaga but Holland's best export since Elise had the last laugh. While I prefer "I Don't Like You" to "This Is Love" (below), they are both great pop songs with booming choruses that instantly command your attention. I hope that her long-promised debut album finally emerges now. She already a bunch of hits to fill it with and the new songs that are starting to appear online ("Renegade" and "Ohh Na Na") all sound fantastic. Bow down.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Et Alors, It's French Pop Diva Shy'm!

It's been a while since I featured some quality Euro-pop on the blog, so I was really excited when a friend told me that flawless French diva Shy'm was back in the game with a new song and album. The gorgeous 26-year-old has a long list of hits under her belt but I thought she had retired to pursue a career in television after rocking my world with 2010's epic dance opus Prendre L'air. It turns out that Dancing With The Stars was just a passing distraction and the Martinique-born beauty has returned to put your fave in her place. Poor Lorie is so pressed right now! "Et Alors!" is a typically fierce pop anthem. I love how it begins with guitars before plunging headfirst into clubland. The chorus is insane and I'm here for all the little vocal hooks. Then there's the video. I've noticed that French pop artists still bother to make great film clips. This one is actually quite simple in comparison to the mini-movies that Mylène, for example, makes but the editing is crisp, the concept is concise and Shy'm looks amazing. "Et Alors!" deserves to be massive and I'm gagging to hear the new album. Watch in awe below.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Alicia Keys Drops B'Day-Inspired Club Banger

Working with Beyoncé on "Put It In A Love Song" obviously rubbed off on Alicia Keys because her new single sounds like a cut from Queen B's game-changing B'Day album. I know that sounds like shade but it's not. I love the upbeat, percussion-heavy R&B sound that Bey's 2006 opus introduced to the masses and "New Day" (below) is one of the best songs to derive inspiration from that sound. Produced by AK's husband Swizz Beatz, the slick club-banger represents a radical change of pace from the gentle Element Of Freedom era. Alicia pulls off the transformation from soulful songstress to club doyenne effortlessly and tears up the vocal like only she can. I love the drum-heavy production and that chorus is a total grower. Give it a couple of listens and you'll be hooked! I'm almost disappointed that this isn't the lead single from the R&B icon's new album. If she has better tunes than this in the can, we're in for something really special.

Shakira + Pitbull + RedOne = Comeback Of 2012

It's kind of stupid to talk about Shakira making a comeback. Afterall, 2010's Sale El Sol outsold the latest from Beyoncé, Britney and Rihanna but it's been a while since she's had a big hit in the UK, Australia or America. "Get It Started" is the song that will, most likely, change all that. Produced by RedOne, the furious club-banger is actually the lead single from Pitbull's soon-to-be-released Global Warming album. To be honest, the Colombian goddess makes little more than a cameo on the chorus but this is the perfect vehicle to reintroduce Shakira to English-speaking pop fans. Pitbull's version of the song - there are two - sounds pretty generic but it stays true to his usual formula of inoffensive rapping seasoned with thunderous club beats and a catchy vocal courtesy of a global superstar. It's basically the kind of shit that will be played twice an hour on radio and sound amazing at the club after a couple of drinks.

The real treat, however, is Shakira's solo version. Anyone who has had the misfortune of hearing the Pitbull-free version of J. Lo's "On The Floor" or "Dance Again" will know that dual versions are usually a dicey proposition but "Get It Started" sounds infinitely superior without Mr Worldwide. It's a testament to the Queen of South American pop that she can carry an entire song with two sentences and some of her trademark growling and howling. I love this woman's voice so much. She brings real heart to the trashy floorfiller through sheer force of will - kind of like Sia's contribution to "Wild Ones". This version of the song is clearly unfinished and will probably never be released officially but I'm obsessed. Shakira is going dance on her sure-to-be all-conquering 8th studio album and the game is about the littered with wigless bitches. Bring on another Laundry Service-sized monster hit.

Carrie Underwood - Live At The Palais

My last update was a review of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Ball. It was a multi-million dollar stadium show with countless costume changes and over-the-top props like a giant talking head and fully functional Gothic castle. Less than a week later, I flew to Melbourne to catch Carrie Underwood at the Palais Theatre. She wore the same outfit the whole time, had no props - apart from a faulty smoke machine that almost choked the front row - and performed a setlist comprised of songs that have never graced a commercial radio station in Australia. Her show was infinitely better.

We all know Carrie has an amazing voice and she made it her mission to showcase her vocal prowess during the intimate concert. The opening number was a gorgeous rendition of her current country hit "Good Girl". Her band was tight and she looked beautiful but the empty stage was a bit jarring at first. She slipped straight into "Flat On The Floor" (the opening track from 2007's Carnival Ride) before dusting off "Wasted" - one of my favourite tracks from her mega-selling debut. By that stage I was expecting the 29-year-old to take a breather and speak to the audience but she plowed straight into the darkly majestic "Two Black Cadillacs". The twisted revenge fantasy has to be the next single from Blown Away. It shows the American Idol champ in a whole new light.

When Carrie finally spoke to the audience, it came as something of a shock to realise that she's actually quite awkward. She struggled gamely to make some banter but it seemed forced and I was grateful when she started belting out a bunch of early hits - mostly from her stunning sophomore set. The country queen tore up "So Small", gave me goosebumps with her pitch-perfect rendition of "Temporary Home", rocked out to "Last Name", melted hearts with "Just A Dream" and came out of her shell to introduce her cover of Randy Travis' "I Told You So". As the show wore on, her initial awkwardness became increasingly endearing and she had definitely loosened up by the time she returned to material from her new album. "Leave Love Alone" sounded meatier live and I was happy to hear another song from the incredibly underrated Play On when she burst into the unintentionally camp "Cowboy Casanova".

Next up was "Nobody Ever Told You", which is probably my least favourite song on Blown Away. It sounds like something from Taylor Swift's debut and is - as such - beneath her. Carrie made up for it by delivering a killer version of her Max Martin-penned country-pop anthem "Quitter". I can't believe the gem wasn't released as a single. America's sweetheart then took it down a notch with a stripped-back trio of songs beginning with "Do You Think About Me". This beautiful mid-tempo ballad is another hit-in-waiting from Blown Away. I'm not sure the same can be said about the lyrically-challenged, reggae-tinged "One Way Ticket". I love it - but for all the wrong reasons! A perky rendition of "Undo It" ended the lo-fi interlude on a high note.

Carrie won a lot of new fans by covering the INXS classic "Never Tear Us Apart". She said she wanted to perform a song by an Australian artist but I was betting on a Keith Urban cover. Her version of the '80s rock-ballad was beautiful. I hope she includes it on a future album. The next two songs were the dual highlights of the show for me. "Jesus Take The Wheel" has never sounded better - the country diva got a well-deserved standing ovation - and "Before He Cheats" still packs a killer punch. I would have happily paid my money just to hear those two songs! After those classics, "Cupid's Got A Shotgun" (one of the less appealing songs from Blown Away) was a bit of a letdown but "I Know You Won't" was a perfect way to end the show. Oklahoma's best export returned shortly afterwards to belt out the new album's title track and really blew me away with her flawless vocal display. Carrie is an absolute superstar. I'm glad Australia is finally waking up to her amazing talent and brilliant music.